NCAA President Mark Emmert on Thursday took the witness stand in the Ed O'Bannon trial and said that college sports "would be fatally flawed if players were allowed to receive a portion of the billions of dollars in basketball and football television revenues now flowing into big conferences and colleges," according to Tim Dahlberg of the AP. Emmert said that one of the "biggest reasons fans like college sports is that they believe the athletes are really students who play for a love of the sport and for their school and community." The lawsuit already has had "some effect, with the biggest five conferences moving quickly toward giving athletes more money and benefits." Emmert supports that development, but he said that giving athletes "more than the true cost of attendance would cause a free-for-all in recruiting and force many schools to give up smaller sports." He added that many schools "would simply leave Division I sports rather than pay their players." Dahlberg noted Emmert faced "friendly questioning by an NCAA attorney," though the cross examination was "sometimes contentious." He was forced to acknowledge that many people "are professionals because they make money in college sports, but said that is no different than other amateur sports." Emmert noted that if some schools "paid their players for their NILs and others didn't it would create such an uneven playing field among schools there would likely be no national championships in football and basketball" (AP, 6/19). In L.A., Lee Romney notes under repeated questioning, Emmert "declined to change his opinion, saying that he acknowledged a longstanding debate on commercialism but did not agree that the fight was lost or the slope slippery" (L.A. TIMES, 6/20).
DEFENDING HYPOCRISY? ESPN.com's Munson & Schlabach noted players' attorney Bill Isaacson asked Emmert about an "incendiary" e-mail from October '10 in which former NCAA exec Wally Renfro wrote, "The notion that athletes are students is the great hypocrisy of intercollegiate sports." The "great hypocrisy" statement "shoots a hole in the best answer the NCAA has to the O'Bannon effort to transform the organization." Emmert replied "mildly and quietly." He said he "does not believe the statement is accurate" (ESPN.com, 6/19). In N.Y., Ben Strauss notes another document presented was a "strategic plan" from NCAA VP/Communications Bob Williams. It read in part, "One of the most damaging criticisms we face is the hypocrisy in which we operate." Isaacson "wanted to know what Emmert thought of the word hypocrisy, and if he had any follow-up conversations with senior staff members about it." Emmert replied, "You’re focusing on the word hypocrisy more than necessary" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/20).
A SLIP OF THE TONGUE: USA TODAY's George Schroeder notes Emmert "stuck doggedly to the NCAA's script, insisting that amateurism, as a core value of the NCAA, was essential to the goal of competitive balance and to integrating athletics and academics." But there were "minor gaffes and unintentionally humorous moments." In one answer during direct examination, Emmert said that although NCAA rules "have evolved, a core value remained being a 'full-time athlete.'" NCAA lawyer Glenn Pomerantz "corrected him, suggesting Emmert meant 'full-time student.'" Emmert replied, "Excuse me, I misspoke" (USA TODAY, 6/20). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sharon Terlep notes after the gaffe Emmert "became terse at times." He seemed to "choose words carefully as he defended the tricky position that unpaid athletes are central to the success of a collegiate athletic system that has seen billions of dollars pour in" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/20).
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has "received a two-year contract extension" through June '19, according to Chuck Carlton of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The extension was approved by the Big 12 BOD and "finalized following the conference’s spring meetings last month." Financial terms were not available. Bowlsby "was given a five-year contract when he was hired two years ago this month." He "has brought stability to the conference, finalizing 13-year TV agreements with ESPN/ABC and Fox" worth $2.6B. The conference distributed a record $220.1M in revenue, translating into $23M "for a full share." That is "nearly double" the $12.1M average per school in '11, based on $145M in revenue. Bowlsby expects that this figure will increase $3M next year and to more than $43M "per school at the end of the TV deal" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/20). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes Bowlsby "might not have a bigger fan" than Univ. of Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale. She said, "He’s the best there is. We are positioned as strong, if not stronger, than any league in the country. His insight and ability to project is unlike anyone I’ve known in the business. He’s a star" (OKLAHOMAN, 6/20).
West Virginia AD Oliver Luck expects the athletic department to "essentially break even" when the current FY ends at the end of the month, according to Dave Hickman of the CHARLESTON GAZETTE. When WVU left the Big East for the Big 12 two years ago, Luck admitted that times "would be tough for a few years." The $12.9M deficit in '11-12 "was the bottom," though most of that was due to the $20M exit agreement with the Big East. But if the "preliminary numbers for this year hold true, it means that the department is already functioning with its head above financial water, with conditions sure to improve in the coming years." Last year's revenue from the Big 12 was around $10M, a 50% share. With the percentage up to 67%, the number this year "was just under" $14M. Next year, the percentage goes to 84%, then to 100% in '15-16. With league revenue "increasing through built-in raises in television contracts," that 100% share "could be nearly twice" this year's 67%. Luck said, "I think we're in a pretty good spot. You're always concerned about (Mountaineer Athletic Club) donations and ticket sales because they fluctuate. But the guaranteed income from IMG and (Big 12) television puts us in good shape and we think we have a pretty good handle on costs. We're certainly in a better spot than we would have been in had we remained in the Big East" (CHARLESTON GAZETTE, 6/20).
MICHIGAN PROJECTING A SURPLUS: Michigan AD Dave Brandon said the athletic department goes into the '14-15 season in "stable and sustainable" financial health. In Detroit, Anthony Fenech reports Brandon presented the Board of Regents a '14-15 budget of $151M, and he "projected an operating surplus" of $5.1M. He said that the surplus will "be invested in facility improvement plans." Brandon added that ticket revenues "fall in line with those of the previous year, but are down roughly" $2M, most notably because of the football team's "light home schedule this fall." Fenech notes this year's home slate of seven games "doesn't include any of U-M's traditional rivals, with its Oct. 11 game against Penn State the home highlight." Still, Brandon "doesn't foresee any issues with filing Michigan Stadium for those seven games." Asked if it is possible that attendance could drop below 100,000 for any of those seven games, Brandon said, "No, I don't think it's a realistic possibility." Meanwhile, Brandon "did not disclose contract information for the Champions Cup soccer game between Manchester United and Real Madrid at Michigan Stadium on Aug. 2" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/20).
Maryland and Rutgers officially join the Big Ten on July 1, and the addition of the schools is both the “boldest and most divisive initiative” of Commissioner Jim Delany’s 25-year tenure, according to Stewart Mandel of SI. The expansion could “yield lucrative cable subscriber fees and open new recruiting territory,” but could also “alienate the existing fan base and further dilute an already struggling football league.” Delany in recent months has been "building bridges to the East,” including awarding the '17 men's basketball tournament to DC and opening a "second office" in N.Y. He said, "We're a two-region conference now. We're not going to visit the East. We're going to live in the East." Mandel noted this “doesn't sit well with many folks back in the Midwest.” However, Delany believes the conference “had no choice” but to go east. As the Big Ten's population moves South and West, its base is “rapidly shrinking.” The conference had long claimed the “most populous footprint of any conference,” but suddenly ranked a “distant third” following expansion by the SEC and ACC. A lawsuit filed last year by Maryland against the ACC over the league's $52M exit fee claims that reps from two ACC schools at one point “contacted two Big Ten schools about joining.” Delany said, "That's when it changed. Once people start getting on our doorstep and calling our institutions, then I think it's important to be able to be offensive and defensive. We came to the conclusion there was more risk in sitting still than there was in exploring other opportunities." Mandel notes it may be a "decade or more before we know whether Delany's move was right," and the success is dependent on Rutgers "overcoming its propensity to self-destruct and Maryland's returning to glory in the two revenue sports” (SI, 6/23 issue).